Aston Villa reign supreme in second city after six-goal thriller

Jack Grealish among the scorers in a lively derby which was capped by Alan Hutton

Jack Grealish of Aston Villa celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the Sky Bet Championship win over Birmingham City. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Jack Grealish of Aston Villa celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the Sky Bet Championship win over Birmingham City. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

 

Aston Villa 4 Birmingham City 2

It was a moment Alan Hutton will certainly never forget. With 15 minutes of a raucous second city derby remaining and Villa leading 3-2, the veteran Scotland full-back set off on a mazy run from 10 yards inside in his own half that took him past five players and ended with a emphatic curled finish with his left foot into the corner of Birmingham’s net.

In Dean Smith’s first taste of one of England’s fiercest rivalries as a manager, this was some way to round off what will go down as a famous victory in these parts. A third goal in 186 matches since he moved to Villa from Tottenham in 2011 even had the humorists on social media describing him as “Hutton dressed as Lahm” in reference to the former Germany captain but having battled back from Lukas Jutkiewicz’s opener to record a third successive win that lifts his side up to eighth spot, the 33-year-old will deservedly bask in the glory.

For Smith – who used to attend matches here as a child with his father, who worked as a steward at Villa Park – it was also a day to remember as Jonathan Kodjia, Jack Grealish and a Tammy Abraham penalty gave Hutton the platform for his heroics. This is never usually a game renowned for its quality and things didn’t bode well when Grealish’s kick-off sailed straight out of play. Rather generously, he was allowed to retake it but, within 30 seconds, was on the receiving end of a clattering foul by Maikel Kieftenbeld - a Dutchman clearly schooled in the meaning of this occasion.

It was to become a recurring theme as Grealish was targeted throughout the first half, with Villa struggling to find their rhythm against a Birmingham defence initially well marshalled by captain Michael Morrison. Garry Monk’s side came into the match having conceded three times in both their previous matches to sit just behind their neighbours only on goal difference in the table, although two successive wins over Derby and Bolton ensured it was Villa who had the momentum.

Lukas Jutkiewicz clearly had not read the script though as he volleyed home Connor Mahoney’s deep corner to score Birmingham’s first goal at Villa Park since April 2008. The pocket of away fans in the corner of the Doug Ellis stand erupted and their joy was almost doubled 10 minutes later when Che Adams stretched to meet Craig Gardner’s cross and diverted it onto the post.

Within 60 seconds, Villa were level as Morrison failed to deal with Albert Adomah’s ball in from the right and Kodjia fired home from close range. Less than two minutes later, another pinpoint cross from Adomah – this time cutting inside onto his left foot – allowed Grealish to turn the game on its head. With the home supporters suddenly finding their voices, it suddenly seemed like a long way back for Birmingham.

Their task was made even harder at the start of the second half when Morrison brought down Abraham in the box and referee Robert Jones immediately pointed to the spot, with the Chelsea loanee making no mistake from 12 yards.

Yet, to their credit, Birmingham refused to give up and found a way back into the game when Kristian Pedersen volleyed home from close range after an excellent cross from Che Adams. Adomah was forced off the field after an awful challenge from Wes Harding that could easily have the seen the defender shown a red card but it was another full-back the Villa fans were talking about as they left the ground. – Guardian service

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